Aldnoah.Zero – 24 (Fin)

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I knew every Orbital Knight wouldn’t immediately heed Asseylum’s out-of-the-blue call for an end to hostilities, but that didn’t matter: as long as some of them stopped to see which was the wind was blowing, it was going to be a huge blow to Slaine’s power base, drawing things that much closer to an endgame.

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Neither Lemrina and Harklight want Slaine to give up, but neither of them have the benefit of his experience, all of which runs through his head in the corridor, where he has a clear view of the death and destruction taking place in his name. From there, he decides to evacuate Lemrina and order Harklight and the rest to surrender while he blows the Moonbase up.

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Harklight isn’t going down quietly, however, and neither are his Stygis comrades. They end up changing Slaine’s mind, at least insofar as he’d rather go out dueling Inaho one last time then dying in that control room. And so their final battle begins.

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When Inaho engages Slaine and asks him (via radio channel…SEE, Gundam G? Mecha pilots CAN communicate with each other once in a while), Slaine assumes Inaho wants to fight him as much as he wants to fight Inaho. But Inaho’s “different objective” isn’t that.

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Asseylum had her big badass announcement that turned the tide of the battle, so even though we know this has to be about Inaho and Slaine at this point, it’s a bit disappointing that all she can do here is clasp her fingers together, watch, and wait, hoping the boys don’t succeed in destroying each other.

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They very nearly do, too, exhausting their ammo, snapping all of their swords, and finally just pummeling each other like rock-’em-sock-’em robots. But Inaho, even without relying on his magic eye, is the better tactician, and he manages to neutralize Slaine as a threat and serve as an ablative shield for their mutual re-entry into the atmo.

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Once back on good old Earth, Slaine again gets the wrong idea, thinking he’s in a reversal of last season’s finale and that Inaho is going to put a bullet in his head. Inaho might want to do that, considering everything Slaine’s put him and Earth and Seylum through, but I knew he wouldn’t.

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That brings us to the epilogue, in which Empress Asseylum activates the first Terran Aldnoah Drive as a gesture of goodwill, and EYEPATCH INAHO visits Slaine, who is believed dead by the public, but remains alive in a creepy lucite prison cell.

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Not that the creepy cell is helping, but he’s not in a great place emotionally, and not eating his meals. He’s still waiting for Inaho to finish him, to exact justice upon him for all of his sins. But while Inaho has been many things throughout the run of this show—Mary Stu; know-it-all; humblebragger; cyborg; savior of mankind—but he’s no executioner, and he entrusts Slaine’s fate to the one most equipped to properly judge him: Seylum.

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Slaine taught Asseylum a lot of things about Earth (some of them, like why the sky is blue, weren’t accurate, but still). But it’s Asseylum who teaches Slaine something about Vers that he may not have picked up on while hanging out with all those Orbital Knights: pages can be turned, people can be forgiven, and lives can be redeemed in time.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 23

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With the Moonbase Chase and Princess Shuffle completed successfully, Asseylum is now in the hands of Count Cruhteo the Younger, and it’s confirmed that those are far better hands to be in than Slaine’s.

And hey, Cruhteo doesn’t seem to have an ulterior motive here: he’s simply loyal to the Emperor of Vers, who ordered him to retrieve his granddaughter. He even helps Asseylum hold firm in refusing to return even after Slaine tries to trick her with an offer to negotiate. Slaine isn’t negotiating anymore. If he says he is, you run.

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As I’d hoped, Mazuurek comes into play as Asseylum’s other ally. Between him and Cruhteo Jr., I can happily report the quality of Martian Counts has improved greatly in the home stretch. Here’s hoping there are other Orbital Knights who will take after them and do the right thing: abandon that little tyrant Troyard for the rightful princess.

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Slaine, obviously thinking he’s come too far to turn back or show weakness, is keen to launch an all-out assault on Earth, a repeat of the Shock-and-Awe campaign the O.K.’s started with, which, you may remember, ultimately didn’t work. Not that that matters to someone who seems to have developed a personal vendetta against Earth.

As he fiddles with Asseylum’s necklace in the chamber where Asseylum had once been in a coma, Lemrina pays him a visit to express how sorry she feels for both of them. I think she’s pretty much done with this palace intrigue bullshit, especially if she senses she may not be on the losing side.

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Somehow, Inko is able to retrieve Inaho, something that happens off camera that I wish we could have witnessed. While sitting with the Captain and Doctor, Inko learns Inaho has given over part of his brain to the AI in his eye, taxing his cranial nerves, which must lead her to wonder if she’s slowly losing the guy she likes.

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Asseylum is surprised but happy to learn that Mazuurek has come to her side, in part, to pay a debt he owes Inaho. Like Cruhteo, his true colors are proven pure: paying his debts are more important to him than grabbing power. While resting aboard his landing castle, Asseylum wonders what became of the gentle, peace-loving Slaine she once knew. Eddelrittuo tearfully corrects her, saying Slaine hasn’t changed at all, insofar as he’s always cared for her, even at the risk of his position or love.

Perhaps Eddelrittuo is right, or perhaps it’s only wishful thinking. My take is that a part of Slaine may still care for Asseylum, but she woke up too late, and as long as she doesn’t feel the same way about her, he will never be at peace.

In an echo of one of the more beautiful scenes of this cour, Inaho wakes up to the sound of his relieved big sister, sitting by his side. When Inaho resolves to get right back to work immediately, Yuki knows she can’t stop him, and not just because he outranks her. Instead, they wish each other good luck and agree to have dinner when he gets back, though Inaho remarks that to promise such a thing could be construed as a death flag.

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Inko tries to stop him too, showing her concern without going so far as to confess or anything, but as Calm knows, no one is going to stop Inaho from going out there and fighting. This leads to an oddly meta exchange:

Inko: Do you think you’re some hotshot ace? That you’re special?
Inaho: I’ve never thought that about myself.

Inaho is joking here, right? He’s just super deadpan about it.

When Asseylum is finally able to contact her grandfather, she sees that he’s too far gone mentally to be fit to rule, knows what her next step must be, and takes it.

Her gramps is also upset that his son died in Heaven’s Fall, but revenge is no reason to subjugate another planet, even if he was of sound mind.

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As the UEF musters for a Final Showdown, Slaine prepares to address his fellow Orbital Knights with a motivational speech. Unfortunately for him, Cruhteo II has more clever techs, because Asseylum is able to override that speech and broadcast on all channels.

She’s got some big news for everyone: First of all, she declares her succession to Empress of the Vers Empire. Then she confirms her betrothal to Baby Cruhteo. Finally, she expresses her, and by extension, the royal family’s, desire for peace with Earth.

Inaho helped get her here, but she had to take the stand, and she did, even if it dooms Slaine. Now we’ll see who among the Orbital Knights will recognize her authority.

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Though I consider myself a strong Seylum+Inaho shipper, I’m not perturbed by the fact that Asseylum—the real Asseylum, not her sister in disguise—must ultimately sacrifice any possible romantic future with Inaho for the good of the empire.

It just makes sense: she’s going to have a hard enough time garnering the support of the Orbital Knights with a real, non-adopted Count by her side; asking them to accept a Terran would be too much, so that’s that. But hey, if Inaho survives, maybe he’ll get smart and pursue Inko. She’s an ace too, you know!

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Aldnoah.Zero – 22

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The Deucalion launches into the Satellite Belt with its space loadout and catapult module, and with it launches the best chance of Inaho saving his princess.

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Before that, Captain Magbaredge is briefed on the particulars of the battle, in which, no surprise, the Deucalion will be used as little more than bait to split the Vers defenses. Darzana doesn’t like it, and neither does the crew, but they carry that plan out…with one slight adjustment.

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Asseylum, Lemrina, and Eddelrittuo locked in the observation room is about what you’d expect: Lemrina blaming Asseylum for waking up and ruining everything, and Asseylum picking up the fact her sister must care for Slaine quite a bit to have gone this far for and with him.

What angers Lemrina more than Slaine loving her sister more than her is the fact that Asseylum won’t return that love. She tells Lemrina her heart belongs to the world and people of Vers—or so she’s always been raised to believe. We’ll see, won’t we?

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Meanwhile, Lord Troyard meets with the newly-arrived Count Klancain Cruhteo. It’s a meeting replete with mutual etiquette and flattery, but in between sips of tea, it’s clear Klancain is sizing him up. It’s obviously suspicious that Slaine speaks of starting a new kingdom, but the princess he claims wishes for a “dream” is nowhere in sight.

Slaine, on the other hand, seems hopeful he can bring Cruhteo to his side, which he believes will cause a domino effect with the other “loyalists”, consolidating his position. Cruhteo doesn’t strike me as that pliable, and despite his successful coup against Asseylum, Slaine doesn’t strike me as that capable.

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As for the slight adjustment to the Deuc’s mission: Inaho consults with Darzana, who apparently approves his plan to sneak into the moon base and rescue Asseylum. He and Inko spot a friendly transport dropping off a covert ops squad Inaho suspects are tasked with assassinating the princess.

This discovery betrays a surprisingly shrewed, if unethical, competence on the part of the heretofore appallingly dunder-headed UE military brass. It’s clear they were never going for a tactical victory with this attack; the idea was for a loud and shouty battle to obscure the death team that would take out Slaine’s Aldnoah source.

If Magbaredge sent Inaho and Inko off to save Asseylum, she’d be ruining the brass’ plans; but it can’t be called insubordination, because she was never officially informed of their true plans. Even so, her trust in Inaho is formidable. There’s also something sad about poor Inko having to literally (and figuratively) “let go” of Inaho so he can go save another woman. But hey, she volunteered.

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Another miscalculation by Slaine is sticking the princesses with the most inept bodyguards imaginable. Sure, they’re up against hardened special ops infiltrators, but shouldn’t that be exactly the kind of foe they should be able to hang with? Instead, like rats in a maze, they dart all over the moon base and get headed off time and again.

In the middle of this chace, Lemrina stops and tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo to continue on without her. It’s not because she doesn’t want to slow them down, but because she has nowhere to go, which is also really sad and lonely. A/Z is not being particularly charitable towards anyone with unrequited feelings this week.

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We also get—at last—the much-anticipated square-off between Inaho and Slaine, and…it’s pretty underwhelming. I guess that’s par for the course; neither are what I’d call brawlers (I think I’d rather have Rayet on my side in a hand-to-hand fight), and the zero-g conditions contribute to a stalemate after a brief exchange of gunfire. That, and the ever-wily Inaho hits some steam pipes, the steam of which covers his escape.

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By that point, Inaho has really used his Google Glass implant way too much, to the extent that just moments after finally reuniting with his beloved Seylum, he passes out. That’s when something strange and unexpected happens: the implant takes over his brain and voice; a totally artificial “backup program” for Inaho the human being. Whoa.

For a second I wondered if this Inaho was an android—it would explain a great many things—but the AI puts that matter to rest at once with these deeply romantic words:

Even though this boy is aware that Princess Asseylum is a separate individual, he misidentifies her as a part of himself. He therefore placed maximum priority on her safety and has acted to protect her.

What a novel way to confess. The AI also tells Asseylum and Eddelrittuo where to go to get picked up by Inko, and Asseylum tells it to thank him when he wakes up, and confesses that she also thinks of Inaho as a part of herself. As if there was any doubt.

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With the last standing assassin cornering Asseylum and Eddelrittuo, combined with Inaho’s breakdown, those who are loved by the one they love didn’t have it any easier than the losers.

When Eddelrittuo valiantly stepped in front of her princess, I feared the worst, but the assassin is taken out by none other than Count Cruhteo…who may either be our new best friend, or a cure that’s worse than the disease if he intends to exploit the the princess just as Slaine did.

He’s quite the wild card, but the glass-half-full part of me wants to think his intentions are honorable, but I do wonder what will become of Inaho, unconscious behind enemy lines, along with Mazuurek, who was a no-show this week.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 08

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For the first time, Inaho, his friends, and the other Terrans aren’t on the run or fighting for their lives, nor is anyone in particular looking for them…unless you count that ridiculously brief cease-fire (we’re not). Those who would are either defeated or in the dark. Now they have their flying battleship Deucalion and their Aldnoah Drive-activating Princess, what’s left of the world would seem to be their oyster.

The show makes the very unexpected decision not to have the Terrans recover Slaine after he’s shot down. Instead they flee the area, and Cruhteo is the one who finds him. While Inaho, Rayet, and Asseylum have to endure a mildly stern debriefing from Magbaredge and some rather amusing interactions with Inko, Nina and Calm, Slaine is tortured mercilessly for information about why he went to the island.

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Interspersed with sense of his sickening treatment at the hands of Cruhteo as Saazbaum looks on, the show—and Slaine himself—flash back to happier times, which show that after Asseylum saved his life, Slaine was the one who inspired her to want to travel to Earth and seek peace in the first place. He was the spark, but it was only ignited because she was also a good and decent person who saved him regardless of his homeworld.

Cruhteo looks to be on the verge of extinguishing the spark for good when Slaine finally pipes up, telling Cruhteo he killed Sir Trillram because he tried to assassinate the princess, who’s still alive. Like Slaine, we couldn’t know whose side Cruhteo was on, and so had to assume he was an enemy…but he’s not. Once he learns of the assassination plot, he asks Slaine’s forgiveness, genuninely impressed a lowly Terran risked his life for Asseylum.

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Then Cruhteo springs into action…perhaps too quickly and recklessly. If you know other Orbital Knights have conspired against the crown, you’d think he’d be a little more careful acting on the very dangerous information he’s just received. Still, it’s in his character to be all noble and bombastic and arrogant to a fault.

Calling for a cease-fire, asking for Terran assistance in locating the princess, and vowing to punish the traitor knights are all well and good, but blurting it all out on open channels where your enemy can hear you and know you’re a sitting duck…it smacks of incompetence and naivete. Saazbaum descends on his bridge, and Cruhteo is so clueless he just stands there calling for his kataphrakt to be readied…as if Saazbaum would wait for him to mount one so they could have an honorable duel.

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Nope, Saazbaum just kills him. Having a loyal, powerful knight like Cruhteo on Asseylum’s side seemed like a good idea at first, but knowing how ill-prepared Cruhteo was for the game Saazbaum had set up makes us wonder if he wouldn’t have been more a hindrance than a help. The sensible knights seem to have no honor, and the honorable ones no sense.

It gets to the crux of Rayet’s bitter monologue in the Deucalion’s briefing room, which I really dug, so here it is verbatim:

We can’t trust you Martians, either. A nation that latched onto an archaic feudal system that relies on the superscience of an ancient civilization called Aldnoah…Commoners who are obsessed with proving themselves in battle to win social standing…and nobility who casually betray them and grind them into the dirt…How can you possibly trust people like that?!

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Rayet has said often that All Martians are the enemy, but we hadn’t truly appreciated the efficacy of those words until now. Still, as Calm so eloquently puts it during his fantastic flip-flop (thoroughly un-impressing Inko and Nina in the process, as he caves because Asseylum is so cute), there are good and bad martians.

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Yet Between the self-involved knights and the uninformed commoners, the only two good Martians so far are Asseylum and Eddelrittuo. The rest, be it by virtue of their hostility, ignorance, or ineptitude, are indeed the enemy. If there are any other Martians out there—be it knights or their retainers—worth a damn to the cause of peace, we haven’t seen them yet. Will that change, or are our heroes on their own?

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Aldnoah.Zero – 07

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AZ delivers yet another action-packed, cinematic tour-de-force of an episode. After fighting with little but their wits and some luck, Inaho & Co. finally catch a break when the sorta-deserting Slaine tracks down the Princess and “Orange”, his nickname for Inaho’s trainer, and they finally have a decent weapon in his sleek Sky Carrier with which to do battle with their latest Martian foe.

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I’m not going to mince words; Femieanne is not much of a character at all, but we can see how her sturm und drang routine would scare most humans into submission. Not Inaho; he continues to keep his cool and pinpoints all her weaknesses, such that by the time she stops playing around and getting serious about the fight, it’s too late. Meanwhile, Inaho, Yuki, Inko and Slaine buy valuable time for Magbaredge’s ship.

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When a secret cave is revealed in the island’s rock face, the ship is steered in and collapses the opening. What they find is something even the Martians apparently didn’t know about: not only is the very red “demon” kataphrakt that Morito battled fifteen years ago, but an entire Aldnoah-powered hover-battleship, the reveal of which is suitably bad-ass in scale and intensity.

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I can forgive Femieanne being a bit lame because of that and pretty much Inaho does this week, always carrying the expression that it’s, like, no biggie. He decides to put his trust in “Bat” and climbs aboard the carrier so he can gain more height in his fight with the enemy Kat. As I said, he determines the fingers and engines of Fem’s arms are weak points. But between his cool heroics and the battleship reveal, this wasn’t a bad romp at all.

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After that battleship runs Fem over, leaving her a heap of twisted metal and red lights, it’s Rayet, piloting a Kat, who delivers the killing blow. Then Inaho does something unexpected but not out of character: he shoots Slaine down, calling him an enemy, and who can blame him? The humans will need the power of Aldnoah to defeat the Martians, and if Slaine aims to stop them for Asseylum’s sake, he is indeed the enemy.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 06

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The Orbital Knights of Vers got what they wanted: an official declaration of war by their emperor. Upon hearing this news, quite a few mecha protagonists would gnash their teeth and tighten their fists in indignation, but Inaho just shoots Asseylum a look that says “Well, looks like your plan went nowhere, Princess!”

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With the war resuming, Captain Magbaredge and the ragtag combination of crew, trainees, and civilians, has little choice but to run and hide where they doubt the Martians would bother them: Tanegashima, an uninhabited land scarred by Heaven’s Fall. It’s a homecoming for Lt. Marito, as that’s where he and his friend Humeray fought Vers kataphrakts with obsolete tanks 15 years ago; a fight only Marito survived.

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Adding fuel to his fire of guilt, Darzana discloses that Humeray was her brother and she blames Marito for his death. I must say I wasn’t expecting that kind of connection between him and what seemed like a side character, but I did enjoy that whole scene of the three adults drinking on the flight deck.

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AZ continues its trend of keeping the peril cranked up and not giving its underdog heroes much of a respite. They could have done a momentum-killing rest episode of mostly character work and it probably would have been just fine, but AZ’s got things to do, so we meet the first female Orbital Knight, someone who apparently was interested in planting her flag on a ruin.

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In fact, it’s that calm, reflective drinking scene on the flight deck she interrupts by launching the four arms of her kataphrakt at the Terran ship like missiles. Even HE rounds won’t penetrate her armor, and the most they can do after Morito himself jumps in the cockpit of a Kat (and after having another panic attack) is to deflect her arms with the blast force of heavy ordinance. Even then, they’re on the verge of defeat when Inaho runs out of bullets.

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They’re saved in the knick of time by Slaine, freshly escaped from Cruhteo and looking for the orange trainee Inaho favors. Now, even if most of them don’t know it yet, the Terrans have the only one on Earth who can control Aldnoah tech (Asseylum), and the son of the lead researcher (Slaine). Combined with the cool-as-a-cucumber Inaho, the vengeful sister, and the functioning alcoholic vet, there’s a nice team coming into focus.

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Stray Observations:

  • I liked how Yuki told Inaho to address her as Warrant Officer Kaizuka on the ship, but when they’re in the cockpit, she allows “Yuki-nee”, which is as good a callsign as any.
  • The rivalry between Slaine and Inaho begins before they formally meet, as Inaho corrects Asseylum on why Earth’s sky is blue; Asseylum having been taught by Slaine.
  • Saazbaum brings up wanting to interogate Slaine now, when Slaine is on the run? Great timing, guy.
  • Even upside down, or out of ammo, Inaho stays cool.
    “Wait…We’re not dead?” Oh Inko…please don’t die!

Aldnoah.Zero – 05

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To their enemies and detractors, Slaine and Inaho are insignificant, pathetic, impudent nobodies. Even so, Slaine is able to contact the Emperor of Vers, while Inaho must face off against Vlad a second time, and a second time shows him the door, only this time it’s a permanent arrangement.

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Unfortunately, Slaine’s efforts have the opposite effect that he intended, because Count Saazbaum got to His Majesty first. The emperor may know Slaine since he was a child rescued by his granddaughter after crash landing on Mars, but right now all he cares about is exacting justice for an assassination that didn’t really happen, and certainly wasn’t the UE’s fault.

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The emperor had initially issued an armistice this week, but you wouldn’t have known it from Vlad’s actions. Apparently repairing his personal honor through a rematch with the “Orange Brat” trumps an imperial decree. But when the cat’s away the mice will play, and the cat is between 54.6 and 401 million km away.

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Vlad lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier where Inaho & Co are aboard and starts wrecking up the place, but while the professional soldiers in their top-of-the-line kataphrakts are carved up like a cake, Inaho is ready for him with more unconventional tactics, making full use of explosive armor, putting Vlad’s kat into a hold.

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Vlad’s so confident he’s going to make mincemeat out of Inaho’s orange trainer, he neglects his surroundings. Inaho has the helm tilt the ship as he has Vlad caught in a hold, then bails out as the two kats fall overboard. The heat from Vlad’s own swords causes a steam explosion that destroys him.

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All in all, pretty awesome battle, though he makes the other soldiers look bad, they’re products of their conventional military training, which won’t work against Vers. It’s also a nice touch that the one to pick him up from his escape pod is Rayet, holding out a hand, seeming to say wordlessly “I like living, so thanks for saving us. Again.”

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Rayet also seems to do Asseylum a favor by discouraging her from revealing herself to the ship’s captain and asking them to contact her gramps. Gramps is convinced she’s dead, and unless she can sneak into an orbital knight’s castle and contact him directly, he’ll stay convinced.

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Since Saazbaum is now aware of Slaine’s treachery, further communication with the emporer by anyone with the actual truth in their possession will be no mean feat. The armistice is off again, as are the gloves.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 04

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This was yet another tour-de-force nail-biter of backs-up-against-the-wall, all or nothing action. Again, it’s not a question of whether humanity can defeat Vers; that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But you take small victories where you can get them, and for Inaho and company, every day their cargo of civilians is safe from harm is a victory.

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Even if their hometown of Shinawara is a meteorite-ridden ruin, they’re still alive; an act of resistance against Vers in and of itself. After Inaho saved her, Asseylum decides to reveal her true identity to him, and he’s his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self. It’s ironic that there’s another character named “Calm” who’s a lot less calm than Inaho; none of what this show has thrown at him has really flustered him.

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With the civilians safe, their new mission is to find the means for the princess to contact her grandfather the emperor; she believes knowing she’s still alive will halt the war in its tracks, but that’s an exceedingly naive assumption. Even if grandpa wants peace with the Terrans as much as she does, the Orbital Knights have landed, staked their claims, and blood is in the water. It’s a veritable feeding frenzy down there, and glory is the repast.

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Still, that’s the plan. Inaho may not consider the princess the enemy, but Rayet won’t hesistate to expose her if she deems it necessary. That becomes a possibility when the navy hovercraft they’re aboard and the installation where they’re resupplying falls under the attack of a Vers kataphrakt, one that wields a really bright, noisy light katana. One by one, the forward Terran kataphrakts are felled, and a great tension builds as the enemy draws closer and closer.

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Asseylum volunteers to go out there and speak to the pilot as she did before, but she’d be flipping a coin over whether he’s loyal or one of the co-conspirators who tried to assassinate her (and still believe they succeeded). Instead, Inaho and Calm go out in their trainers and do what they do best: improvise. Using a cargo crane to knock the Vers kataphrakt on its ass was particularly inspired, and I loved Inko’s sheepish reaction when it doesn’t work a second time.

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But again, Inaho & Co. aren’t trying to pull off miracles, only buying time, plain and simple, for the cavalry to arrive in the form of another naval vessel armed with enough teeth to compel the enemy to bug out. When you’re such an overwhelming underdog, sometimes you need to depend on things other than your own strength and skill—like luck, timing, and the enemy’s arrogance or indifference—to survive the day.

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And then there’s Slaine, who gets in his plane and heads right back to Cruhteo, lying that the meteorite bombardment did Trillram in and not mentioning that Asseylum still draws breath. Even if Cruhteo didn’t conspire against the princess, he’s still exploiting the situation for all it’s worth. And While he gets smacked around, Slaine seems to convince his superior to let him continue to participate in the battle, meaning we can’t rule out him and Asseylum reuniting again.

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